Faithful Sneaker Wave readers, my babies. As the new Mercury music editor, I’m even busier than usual—busy kicking ASS, while simultaneously trying not to drown in an infinite sea of emails. Luckily, I’m not the only person who can cover Portland’s hotbed of hip-hop music and culture. BEHOLD: a column guest-written by writer and The Thesis co-founder Mac Smiff. —Jenni Moore
What’s up, Mercury readers? My name’s Mac and I’ll be taking over Sneaker Wave for a bit. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
SQVTCH, Whatever Makes You Happy
Last month, the deep-voiced homie SQVTCH independently released his first full-length album, Whatever Makes You Happy, an introspective rap-pop project that explores mental health, love, and artistry over spacey, trap-influenced production from qoRx and McNatt. “One of the things I wanted to get across,” he explains, “is that the album was a story of overcoming anxiety, depression, addiction, and learning that doing whatever makes you happy is a two-way street.” The 12-track release boasts amazing depth: From the heartbroken “October ’16” (one of two tracks featuring Simone French) to the show-ready “Deathchamber,” SQVTCH stays in the emotional pocket while consistently delivering the message that he is a work in progress. EYRST’s Epp—fresh off a recent release of his own—lends his voice too, coming in clutch on the thoughtful “Junkfile” and “Convos.” SQVTCH’s debut, available now on all streaming services, delivers.
Covi., “4 Me”
Covi. threw a sold-out release party in May, giving the crowd a preview of the music video for “4 Me,” a sultry collaboration with Chicago singer Nikki Hayes. The track serves as the latest single from his critically acclaimed 2018 debut album, Escalate with Me. The short film—now available for viewing—has a wild twist, straight from the mind of local documentarian-turned-director Riley Brown, who’s long been developing as one of the scene’s most intense and creative minds.
Local legend in the making Fountaine—MC, DJ, producer, anime enthusiast—dropped instrumental album Rain? on June 1. The Bandcamp-only release is as randomly wondrous as one would expect from the eclectic Northeast Portland artist. Complete with flagrant samples, freestyles from the homies, and cosigns from local artists, Rain? feels more like a day in the life of Fountaine than a beat tape. And let me tell you, a day spent with Fountaine is quite an experience. (Mon June 10, 7 pm, Portland Center Stage at the Armory, 128 NW 11th, $15-35, w/Blossom, Bocha, KayelaJ, DJ Dubblife)
KayelaJ, “Depression Was Trash”
KayelaJ—probably the most explosive new artist I've witnessed in Portland in recent memory—announced that her debut album, D.Y.K.E. (Don’t Yield, Keep Enduring), will be released on July 13. Her lead single, the Blangblanglang-produced "Depression Was Trash" is one of the most personal songs I've heard this year, and it has me even more excited for the full-length. Depression is never an easy topic to talk about, despite estimates that LGBTQ adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexuals to suffer from a mental health condition. KayelaJ is showing real courage by putting herself on record, while also staying true to the title of her forthcoming album. (See the June 10 event listing above.)
TROX, Late ’80s Baby
TROX, a staple in hip-hop both local and beyond, is dropping his next highly anticipated beat tape, Late ’80s Baby, with the help of Fresh Selects, a label started in Portland that has signed talent from around the world. The first single, "Drug Trade" is already a neck-breaker, and, on the "Drug Trade [DDA Blend]" remix, its placing of Pusha and Jigga lyrics over the top is certified insane. TROX go crazy. The full project is just around the corner, released digitally and on cassette on June 27.
DJ OG One recently announced that Hip-Hop Day will be expanded to Hip-Hop Week this year. The festivities begin August 20 and end on August 26, which is, not coincidentally, the birthdate of late Hip-Hop Day founder Starchile. The hip-hop community is encouraged to throw shows during this time, but only shows meeting specific criteria may be branded as official Hip-Hop Week events by JAM’N 107.5 and the City of Portland. For more info, email email@example.com.